As the termination dust moves down the mountain in this beautiful Southeast fall, those of us who ski can not help but get excited at the impending arrival of winter. We can see the frosty bits of white on the autumn-colored peaks, and imagine the delightful snow-sports fun that awaits us in the coming months.
Fortunately for skiers in Juneau, our friends at Eaglecrest Ski Area have not been idle this summer. There is much encouraging news from those beautiful peaks and valleys on North Douglas Island.
Many skiers took advantage of the new road to the top of the mountain over the past summer. I thoroughly enjoyed hiking to the top, and seeing the terrain on the east side of the mountain with no snow cover. This was great way to check out a whole new range of cleared surfaces that will be open for skiing this coming year.
The biggest and most exciting news is the long-awaited third chairlift. The Black Bear is up, and should be running when the mountain opens this winter. Those who went up to the mountain this summer saw the towers being installed. I haven't been back up to see if the chairs are now hanging from the cables, but I may try to sneak in one final fall visit before the season turns to winter, just for the perspective without a frosty overlay. It is fair to say that I can't wait to ride up this lift and ski back down under it!
One new and exciting option is Eaglecrest's "Extend the Season" pass. After years of complaints that the mountain was closing in April when there were piles of delicious snow still available, skiers were given the option at the end of the season to extend the ski season, but only if enough people showed interest.
This didn't work as an afterthought, but the opportunity is available again this year for those of us who want to ski through the spring. But we must be proactive and commit to this idea. Those willing to take the plunge should go to www.juneau.org/ecrestftp and fill out the application, which means you also are committing to pay about $83 for the pass. If 300 people do this, we'll have two more weekends in late April next year. If you share my urge to ski in the spring sunshine, I strongly urge you to take this step. It's an experiment, but I'd love to see it work.
Many skiers, myself included, are already renewing their lockers. When I renewed, I noticed that the annual rental fee had gone up. I personally have no problem with the modest increase because I truly value the service.
Also new this year is a larger number of ski pass options, each priced differently depending on a skier's needs and interests. The full pass will be about $472 with tax until Nov. 8. Compared to many other ski areas around the country, this is a smoking-hot deal. Other options include only holidays, weekends, or both. More information can be found on Eaglecrest's web site.
Eaglecrest's volunteer board of directors has worked hard over the past few years with its industrious General Manager Kirk Duncan to make these things happen. The board adopted a strategic plan last year that states by 2010, Eaglecrest will be a "broadly support, year-round recreation center with appropriate infrastructure for both public and commercial use." With the successful zipline operations over the past few summers, the Day Lodge rentals that have seen many social events at the base of the mountain, a new chairlift and the opportunity to extend the ski season through April, Eaglecrest is well on its way to achieving this vision.
We in Juneau are incredibly lucky to have so many entities that directly enhance our quality of life, Eaglecrest being the greatest among them.
See you on the mountain!
Ben Brown is an attorney living in Juneau.